July 9th: Woke up this morning . That seemed to be the good news for the day. My energy level is, at this point non-existent. And as I sit slouched on the sofa, Denise asks, “are you ok?” In place of regular conversation, the dialog is filled with questions of my health status. When noon rolled around, we decided to step out and get a bite to eat. Now normally, we would pick a restaurant that offered healthy options,, and the burger joint we chose did serve salads. But I was not feeling well. On top of which I was feeling depressed. Six months had come and gone since being listed for a new heart and nothing. Just a couple of hopeful offers that turned out to be of no consequence. Every day we wait., Every day…nothing.
“Give me a double cheeseburger and a chocolate milk shake” came from my mouth without a stutter. Denise being…well, Denise ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and a salad. We sat and ate our meal and taking. Actually questioning my choice of food for lunch I retorted something to the effect that it will be fine. They haven’t called us in six months. They won’t call today. So we stay, relaxed and talking about all manner of topics. Finally it was time for us to leave. Denise cleared the table and refilled her diet Coke. Then, she came back to the table to help me get up. I was holding onto the bag which held the pump and the Milrinone. As I held that, Denise held my arm and pulled me up. I adjusted myself, regained my balance and started toward the exit.
I had not yet reached the door when I heard the cell phone ring. It was buried deep in Denise’s purse. She stepped outside and answered the phone. Quiet at first, she handed me the phone saying it was the hospital calling. NO BIG DEAL. They always call. Appointment this, lab result that. There was no reason to get excited. That is until I heard the nurse tell me –
“Brian. I have some good news. We have a heart for you.” Just as I listened to the last syllable fall off of her tongue,, time stood still. My stomach immediately turned into a knot and I could not speak. I motioned to Denise that they have a heart for me. She froze in her tracks. I have…no we have been waiting for more than six months for this call, and now that it is in my hands I am speech less.
With tremendous shaking in my voice I manage to ask her to repeat what she said.
She did, adding “ The staff on the 7th floor cardiac ICU are waiting for you. They will get you prepped and briefed.”
“Do I have time to go home and shower” I asked?.
“ Yes, but be at the hospital by 2 pm. I will let them know”. And with that I hung up the phone, turned to Denise in shock and began tearing up. I cannot say if they were tears of happiness or sheer fright. Quickly though, we got into the car and made our way home. As we did, I called my daughter. I told her what was going on. She would make all the subsequent notifications.
As soon as I got home I jumped into the shower. By now, the phone calls started to pour in. Denise handled them. By 1:30pm we were out the door and en route to the hospital.
As we begin our walk into the hospital, the reality of the situation comes full circle and I begin to shake with nervousness, Denise clutches my hand tightly. I could tell that she is as scared as I am. Maybe more. As we make it to the 7th floor and walk into the cardiac ICU we are greeted with a nurse asking if she could help. I introduced myself and Denise and the nurse immediately came over and gave each of us a big hug, an very happy confident smile and some kind words. She showed us to my room. The room I would only have residence in until the transplant. After the surgery she pointed down the hall and said I would be at the surgical ICU for about a week. Moments later, a team of two nurses came by. They were from the surgical ICU. They told Denise and I that they would be my nurses when I arrive at the surgical ICU later on. They wanted to stop by and introduce themselves to us.
Moments after the introductions, someone came by to get Denise. She would have to stay in a lounge area until I was prepped. Then she and others could come in. Now normally only two visitors at a time are allowed in the cardiac ICU. Pre transplant patients are allowed as many as you can fit into the room. The rules are different for patients that have a 10% chance of dying in surgery.
With Denise comfortably in the lounge, the staff began prepping me. First… all of my clothes must be removed followed by all of the hair on my body below my chin. Yes, Everywhere. Chest, back, arms, legs, groin…everywhere. Then a special scrub to clean me up proper.
Finally after what seems like a full day, at 3 pm, I was fully ready to go and Denise was allowed back in.
As we wait, we were joined by my son and daughter, and other friends and family. All nervously waiting for some word. I remember, it was about 5 pm and Dr Kwan came in to my room. He told us that I was offered a heart and it looked promising. The heart is not yet at the hospital. It is still keeping the donor alive. Medical teams from all over harvest what they require. It is only after everything is donated that the heart retrieval team may extract the heart and give it a thorough examination. He told us not to get too excited. This may just be a dry run. He cautioned that dry runs happen frequently.
A short while later, the surgeon came in. He is a white haired old man, seemingly over 70 years. He has the reputation for being meticulous with everything in his life, including his work. His clothes are freshly pressed, despite the fact he has worked all day. He tells us to relax. If it happens tonight, it will be a while. His soft, old voice is full of confidence and somehow beckons you to listen and trust him. A moment later he was gone.
So as I lie in the bed, surrounded by the people I love and the people that love me, we reminisce about earlier days before the heart attack. Days which regrettably put me in the situation I find myself now. So many years of waiting. Such a hard, long road to get here. The moment is surreal for us all. At 6:30 pm, Dr Kwan again came to see how we were doing. He is hopeful now that the transplant will happen, but he cautioned still not to get my hopes too high. My friends and family took advantage of having his attention and asked lots of questions. It was during this period that the nurse entered the room.
It was nearing 7 pm. She told Dr Kwan, and the rest of us that the surgical suite has just been reserved for us. Reservations for one at 8 pm. Dr Kwan said that I would get my transplant tonight, although he still is not certain what time. I asked him if he knew anything about the donor. All he could tell me was that the donor was a 37 year old male. He would give no additional information.
Now it was at this point that you could begin to feel the tension in the air. It was palpable. Everyone was scared. I could tell that Denise is really frightened. The welled up tears in her eyes told the tale, and like a chain reaction, everyone began to tear up. To break the tension, almost on que, a nurse from the surgical ICU returned. She spoke kindly and said that they are ready for me when they complete the transplant. She let me know not to be frightened when I awake. My hands will be restrained. I will be awakened with the breathing tube still in use. They do not want me to pull it out. Moments later It was 8pm.
As I lie there, my visitors began to come to my bedside for a final, and very teary good bye. It did not matter that the odds were in my favor to survive, this is some scary stuff and I was hugged like it was the last time they would see me. During the “good-bye procession”, yet another nurse arrived. She introduced herself and told us she was with the surgical team. The nurse followed up by saying that the new heart is nearly here and I would be going to surgery very soon. Then talking to Denise, the nurse assured her that she would be updated every hour. More often if needed. They expected for me to return to the surgical ICU about 6 hours after I leave here.
8:30pm arrived very fast, and before I could finish saying my good-byes, two gentlemen came in to get me. With one final kiss good bye and “I love You’s” to everyone and with tears now flowing out of every eye, I was quietly rolled out off the room, and out of sight to my guests.
If you find yourself not really knowing what the heck is going on, you can catch up. Pick up a copy of “Death:Living To Talk About It” here. http://www.brianhayden.com/ My book is available in Paper back, Kindle and Nook.
Take some time to go back in the blog..one month…six months…a year or more. My life is spilled all over the last 190 blog entries. I invite you in and check it out.
This memoir is the story of a man struggling with heart failure, and the trials he and his family endured for many years. It is the story which proves that no matter what you do not give up. There IS hope.
The sequel to this story is “Road To Transplant”. Some of what you read in this blog is in the new book. Road To Transplant is scheduled to be released in Mid November 2012.
AND!!! My latest book, a light fiction, called “Five Short Stories and Twelve Poems” is an entertaining read that is sure to keep you smiling.
NOW AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/Short-Stories-Twelve-Poems-ebook/dp/B0090A4LKQ/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1347556262&sr=1-1